At sunrise every first Saturday in November a crowd of runners assembles on Long Street in Cape Town for  for the start of a 50-kilometre race that will see them huffing-and-puffing up (and down) the three peaks surrounding the Cape Town City Bowl. Devil’s Peak, Maclear’s Beacon on Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are their targets as they take on the 19th Three Peaks Challenge in Association with K-Way.

The tradition of the Three Peaks Challenge was initiated in 1897 when Carl Wilhelm Schneeberger first completed a route that ascended and descended Cape Town’s three peaks, returning to the city after each one.

The Challenge was revived by Don Hartley in 1997 to commemorate CW Schneeberger’s achievement 100 years earlier and thus the annual tradition of the Three Peaks Challenge began.

“Three Peaks is a tradition that is incredibly close to my heart,” says race organiser Gavin Snell. He’s the only person to have completed all 18 editions of this event.

“It is a wonderful mental and physical challenge, but, more than that, is a great story with its rich history, tradition and people.”

Participants that stand out include Brian Key, who will be running for the 13th time. At 76 years young, Key placed in the Top 30 last year with a credible time of 7:55:59.  He turns 77 only two weeks after this year’s race.

“After a number of years of effort to find a member of the Schneeberger family, we’re delighted that Shaun Schneeberger, a great-grandson of the pioneer CW Schneeberger, will be taking part this year,” says Snell.

On the competitive side of the event the race welcomes back last year’s winner Martin Kleynhans and three-time winner and former record holder Andrew Hagen. Hagen is one of only two men – the other being AJ Calitz – to have run under five hours. Nic De Beer is in the starting line-up. Recovered from injuries, de Beer has indicated that he is using the event as part of his comeback to the trail-running scene.

Undisputed women’s favourite is Katya Soggott. She has won the last three consecutive events with unbelievably consistent winning times of 6:15:27,  6:15:02 (women’s record) and 6:15:44!

“There is something very special about the day and many people who enter thinking that they just want to do one to tick it off on their bucket list find themselves coming back for more,” says Snell.

“Besides taking place on the iconic Table Mountain, it is an interesting blend of city and mountain and has a camaraderie that can only be experienced by those who are fortunate enough to take part.”

Start in Long Street

The 5am start in Long Street



  • ·         Name: The Three Peaks Challenge in Association with K-Way
  • ·         Date: Saturday, 7 November 2015
  • ·         Start: Long Street, Cape Town at 05h00
  • ·         Finish: 19h00
  • ·         Time Limit: 14 hours
  • ·         Distance: 50km
  • ·         The Three Peaks: Devil’s Peak, Maclear’s Beacon (via Platteklip Gorge) and Lion’s Head
  • ·         Number of participants: 150 (limited entry)
  • ·         Records:

Men: 4:50:21 (AJ Calitz)

Women: 6:15:02 (Katya Soggott)

  • ·         Runners to watch: Men: Martin Kleynhans (winner 2015), Andrew Hagen (three-time winner and a former record holder plus he has run a sub-5 – one of two men to do so). Also Nic De Beer.
  • ·         Women: Katya Soggott is the most likely contender; but a newcomer could have what to takes to beat her.
  • ·         This is the 19th running of this event.
  • ·         Website:


Running up and down Cape Town’s three peaks (Devils Peak, Table Mountain and Lions Head) isn’t most people’s idea of fun – but it is mine. This is kind of strange as I usedto hate running. Well hate is a strong word; I just didn’t like it much. I loved hiking though and found once I got into it that I could hike pretty fast up some fairly steep mountains. Then I saw an article in the paper about the Three Peaks Challenge which caught my interest, but after reading that they start in town near to Greenmarket Square and return to the Square after each peak, I laughed to myself, thought “fucking crazy” and lost interest.

The following year, 2002, the Three Peaks reared its beautiful three heads again and a friend, a Celtics runner at the time, told me to phone fellow Celtics runner Gavin Snell, the organiser of the event. As sceptical as I was I soon found myself chatting to Gavin who told me about the event, showed me some pics and hauled out his shoebox of memorabilia including the hand carved trophies of the Three Peaks that every finisher gets. The trophies are made by Don Hartley, founder and co-organiser of the event. All well and good I said but I don’t run. Don’t worry said Gavin you’ll be fine. Far from convinced I decided to give it a bash and entered.

Three Peaks Challenge 2011I started doing some running, completed my first half marathon in the process, and on the first Saturday in November, 2002 I found myself lined up in Long Street at 5am with a bunch of other nutters. About 8 ½ hours later I completed my first challenge, had the best time and was hooked – not just on the Three Peaks but on trail running in general.

November 2011, nine years later, I have completed my 10th Challenge. Those years have seen me become a seasoned trail runner who now loves running and has his own shoebox of Three Peaks memories. I have watched the local trail running scene explode into a main stream sport with many roadies finally seeing the light and now stretching their legs regularly if not exclusively on the mountains. Where once there were a handful of trail events there is now one almost every week.

While the trail running scene has changed I’m glad to say the Three Peaks Challenge has not. The organisers are the same, the atmosphere is the same, and the entry fee kept affordable, unlike many events which charge almost 3x that amount for far less, and you still receive a hand carved Three Peaks trophy if you finish. More importantly I still love this event. I have roped in many an unsuspecting runner who landed up running next to me at some run or another, burning their ears with tales of this special event – some of them completed their 5th challenge this year. The one difference is that nine years ago you could phone Gavin the night before and get an entry – that is no longer possible.

Thanks Gavin, who has not only organised all 15 events to date –read the history of the event here –  but has run every one as well –  and thanks Don for starting this event in 1997, 100 years after it was first completed. Looking forward to no 11.

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